Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre creates vital Canadian theatre by developing and presenting voices that question sexual and cultural norms. Built on the political and social principles of queer liberation, Buddies supports artists and works that reflect and advance these values.

Our Impact Why We Exist

As the world’s longest-running and largest queer theatre, Buddies is uniquely positioned to develop, promote, and preserve stories and perspectives that are challenging and alternative. Buddies achieves artistic excellence through its mainstage season programming, artist-residency program, and youth-based initiatives. Buddies serves a broad segment of the population who share a passion for theatre that celebrates difference.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Founded in 1979, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has ensured that queer voices are a vital part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. It has made an unparalleled contribution to the acceptance of queer lives while supporting some of Canada’s most innovative and important artists, such as Daniel MacIvor, Brad Fraser and Ann-Marie MacDonald. In 1994, thanks to the financial support of a wide range of donors, Buddies was able to give queer Canadian culture a permanent home at 12 Alexander Street. The combination of Buddies’ innovative artistic vision, a powerful community spirit and a permanent, flexible space has resulted in Buddies becoming the largest queer theatre in the world.

Accolades and Accomplishments

  • 22 Dora Nominations and seven wins - including Outstanding Production for Obaaberima, and Outstanding Performance for Of a Monstrous Child (2013)
  • Seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards for productions of Blasted and The Situationists (2011)
  • Six Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Waawaate Fobister’s Agokwe (2009)
  • Artistic Director Brendan Healy received the 2009 Pauline McGibbon Award for directors
  • In 2008, former Artistic Producer Jim LeFrancois received inaugural Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award for arts administrators
  • Other awards include the Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Arts (for organizational strength), the Michael Lynch Award for Queer History, and numerous other Dora Awards and nominations

Our Programs How We Do It

Queer Youth Arts Program: This program provides an empowering artistic space for queer youth aged 15-25 to build connections with established queer artists, like-minded peers, and the broader queer and arts communities, with on-going opportunities for performance creation and access to Buddies' artistic programming.

Main Stage Productions: Every year, Buddies provides a creative outlet for more than 500 artists and reaches an audience of 50,000 through productions that share and celebrate queer stories, partners with other theatre companies who work in marginalized communities, and hosts the longest-running new works festival in Canada.

Artist Residency Program: Buddies commissions and develops new work by established and emerging artists by offering one-to-three year residencies where they receive the space, resources and dramaturgical support needed to realize their creative vision.

 

Queer Youth Arts Program

A program where the next generation of queer youth can discover and share their individual voices, under the mentorship of senior artists and community leaders. It also teaches them about the struggles of previous generations and provides them with an outlet to share those discoveries with their communities. The program is broken into four main components:

  • Buddies Youth Nights: Every season, Buddies gives out over 200 free tickets to youth. Each youth night also includes a special talk-back with the artists.
  • QueerCab: A monthly open-mic night for young queers to express their creativity in a supportive and safe environment.
  • The Young Creators Unit: A supportive and artistically rigorous space for 4 queer-identified artists to develop and perform their own original solo performance piece under the mentorship of theatre professionals.
  • PrideCab: Each spring, a select group of youth program participants create an original cabaret-style show that is presented as part of Buddies’ annual Queer Pride Festival.

Funding and Program Partners

Our Queer Youth Arts Program receives direct support from our Education Partner, TD Bank Group. We also partner with a long list of youth groups, public agencies, schools, community groups and art organizations in order to reach as many queer youth as possible. Some of these are: Supporting Our Youth (SOY), The 519 Community Centre, Planned Parenthood's TEACH Program (Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia), the Toronto District School Board’s Triangle Program, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), and the Central Toronto Youth Centre, just to name a few.

Program Impact

The Queer Youth Arts Program empowers queer youth through artistic expression, fostering self esteem and a sense of belonging, while offering regular opportunities to share their voice with the larger community and develop it through hands-on professional training.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

Leadership and Belonging:

“Toronto youth face barriers to accessing safe and welcoming public space.” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®)

Buddies’ Queer Youth Arts Program provides queer youth with an empowering and supportive environment by helping them discover, develop, and share their creative voices, and connecting them to the broader queer communities.

Participant Vignette

From Waawaate Fobister, whose groundbreaking one-man show Agokwe told the tale of unrequited love between teenage boys from neighbouring native reserves. This critically-acclaimed show bravely tackles themes of native cultural preservation, racism, bullying and teen suicide. Agokwe began development while Waawaate was in the Queer Youth Arts Program, and premiered on the Buddies main stage in 2009. In 2010, the show embarked on a tour across Canada which included a stop at the prestigious National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

“I first got involved at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2006 with their PrideCab, a queer youth driven cabaret for their Pride festivities. I was also asked to perform in their QueerCab, a monthly open mic. At this open mic, I ranted a true story. Evalyn Parry, the director of the PrideCab, urged me to organize this rant into a monologue to perform in the cabaret. I reluctantly did so. This was the seed for Agokwe. I later applied to be a part of their Young Creators Unit (YCU) to further develop Agokwe into a one-man show. At the end of the YCU we had to perform our pieces and I was paired with professional director Ed Roy to bring this piece to life. After the success of that presentation, Buddies approached me wanting to produce this show into a full-scale production. The show was a hit. It was nominated for eight Dora awards and took six of them. Buddies has nurtured me and given me a chance as a young artist. Where I come from in a northern isolated reserve, Agokwe’s success is thought only as an unreal dream. My parents would be thrilled if I only got as far as my high school diploma, because it is seen as a huge accomplishment and to go further is beyond expectations for the youth from my reserve. I am so very grateful that Buddies believed in me and invested in their youth programs, because if they hadn’t - the success of Agokwe would still be an unreal dream.” -Waawaate Fobister

 

Artistic Programming

As a queer performing arts centre, Buddies in Bad Times is an exceptional site for local, national, and international queer artists to present their work, meet each other, and enter into a dialogue about art identity and politics with our city. Over the course of a season, our audience experiences the best in emerging and established queer talent from Toronto and beyond through our mainstage productions, festivals and late night cabaret performances.

Funding and Program Partners

Buddies receives multi-year operational funding from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. The site at 12 Alexander Street which Buddies occupies is a city-owned building that is leased to the company for a nominal sum. This lease is in effect until 2033. Additional funding for artistic programming comes from the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s Arts Investment Fund, and the Creative Trust (an arts stabilization program for mid-sized companies, which has awarded the company three Working Capital grants). Buddies also benefits from private support through individual donors and corporations including TD Bank Group and BMO Financial Group.

Program Impact

Through our artistic programming, Buddies acts as a cultural home for the queer community – telling our stories and preserving our heritage. Our work brings an important queer perspective to our city’s cultural discourse and raises the voices of the marginalized to a level of excellence on par with the rest of the world.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

Arts and Culture:

“The city is well-positioned to be a global leader in arts and culture.” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®)

As the largest queer theatre company in the world, Buddies ensures that Toronto retains its position as a world leader in artistic and social innovation. As one of the most acclaimed and longest-running professional theatre companies in the city, Buddies plays a pivotal role in positioning Toronto as an energetic and creative city.

Artist Residency Program

Buddies in Bad Times recognizes that a solid, stable, committed and extensive new work development program is essential to support the creation of new queer work. Established in 2009, Buddies’ Artist Residency Program supports artists and companies who follow creation methods that fall outside traditional, writer-centered processes by commissioning and developing new, queer works over a one-to-three year period. Resident artists are offered space and time in the theatre, along with dramaturgical, technical, production, and administrative support needed to realize their creative vision.

Funding and Program Partners

The program receives direct support from BMO Financial Group. There are currently eight projects in development as part of this program.

Program Impact

Buddies’ Artist Residency Program ensures the preservation and promotion of queer culture by giving voice and opportunity to the people who tell its stories, and creating a space for them in the larger cultural dialogue of our city.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

Arts and Culture:

“Toronto’s finest attribute? Creative capital that enriches the city and drives prosperity.” (Toronto’s Vital Signs®)

The Buddies Artist Residency Programs acts as a seeding ground for new work and as a platform for artists to grow their careers and refine their craft. It is an important first investment in the creative capital of tomorrow.

What You Can Do

 

Queer Youth Arts Program

Activities a donation will support

Contributions to this program will support over 1,500 young people who benefit from it every year, including:

  • Subsidizing free access to Buddies artistic programming for all youth particpants
  • Hiring professional artists as instructors and mentors
  • Intensive creation and training opportunities for 14 participants in the PrideCab and Young Creators’ Unit initiatives
  • Presentation of youth-generated work at our two annual festivals

Donation impact

Financial support for this program will provide queer youth with a sense of belonging and well-being, as well as an empowering and safe space for them to discover, discuss and grow both as individuals and as a community. It will foster intergenerational exchange, teach Toronto’s queer history to the next generation, and ensure the continued presence of talented and informed queer perspectives in art and culture.

 

Artistic Programming

Activities a donation will support

Contributions to Buddies’ Artistic Programming will support:

  • A full season of theatre, which runs annually from September to June, employing over 500 people and playing to a growing audience of over 50,000
  • Maintaining affordable and accessible ticket prices for all of our Main Stage Productions and Festivals (Buddies currently has some of the lowest-priced tickets offered by any venue-based theatre company in Toronto)
  • The annual Rhubarb Festival, which sees over 100 local and international performing artists present experimental new work at Buddies for two weeks in February
  • The annual Queer Pride Festival, which presents a series of one-night-only, community-focused events leading up to Toronto’s Pride Day celebrations.
  • Opportunities for other arts companies who work with marginalized communities to present work as part of our season

Donation impact

Without Buddies in Bad Times, Toronto’s LGBT communities would not have a functional theatre space to develop and present work, and Toronto audiences hungry for art that celebrates difference and questions assumptions would not have a venue to engage in a dialogue with one another. Our presence on the Canadian cultural landscape is a unique and necessary one: it validates and legitimizes a queer, critical and diverse perspective. We fight for the advancement of freedom of expression and we are a leading voice in the LGBT rights movement.

Artist Residency Program

Activities a donation will support

Contributions to the Artist Residency Program will support:

  • Free studio space for resident artists and companies at Buddies in Bad Times main stage and cabaret facilities
  • Dramaturgical, technical and administrative staff to support the development of projects in residency and act as mentors to participating artists
  • Showcasing the work of resident artists at our annual Rhubarb Festival

Buddies is currently seeking to expand the scope of our Artist Residency Program. With increased funding we will be able to expand the number of residencies to nine, and establish a dramaturgical fellowship for an established queer theatre artist to provide dedicated mentorship to our resident artists and members of our Queer Youth Arts Program (above).

Donation impact

Giving an artist the space and resources to explore new ideas and develop new work is an invaluable investment in the vitality of Toronto’s arts ecology. New theatrical works, particularly those that use collaborative or process-based approaches, take years to develop and there are countless artists in our city who need support during this crucial period. As Canada’s oldest LGBT theatre company, it is imperative that we create a space for queer artists to grow and flourish. Through our Artist Residency Program, we are fostering a vital cultural dialogue in our city, and making a place in this dialogue for alternative voices and queer perspectives.

Contact

Mark Aikman
Director of Development & Communications
416.975.9130 x40
Charitable Number: 118820778RR0001

Finance & Governance

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